A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy, by Charlotte Greig

Susannah is a second year philosophy student studying at the University in Sussex in the 70's. The modules she's taking have a focus on existentialist philosophy, and she finds that the thoughts of Nietzsche, Heidegger and Kierkegaard have an application on her own life and problems.

That makes it sound a bit more dry than it really was: while there were small extracts from Fear and Trembling etc., the main storyline was of Susannah and her romantic entanglements.

After reading Recovery, it was a real relief to have this book, which was a nice easy read. It was sort of high-brow chick-lit I suppose, or maybe a bit better than that.

I don't know if Charlotte Greig did a philosophy degree herself, but some of the stuff she said didn't quite ring true for me, especially the way that Susannah wrote decided on her dissertation topic and wrote it in the space of one night. Similarly there wasn't much about the pressure of getting work in on time etc..

Looking back on it, I think that there were bits that were done pretty well; the way the relationships were described, and the way they worked out, wasn't cliched - there were points where I thought "ok, this means that X will happen", but it didn't. And these didn't undermine the story at all.

I was also very impressed by the way the book ended, with Charlotte being faced by a rather tricky dilemma, and trying to draw on the writings of the philosophers she'd been studying in an attempt to solve it. And the ending wasn't neat and tidy, which would have been a let-down.

Not a great work of literature perhaps, but a good read.

Completed : 09-May-2010

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